Committee Approves Hutchison Cosponsored Bill to Preserve America’s Human Spaceflight Capabilities

Measure Balances Commercial Space Investment and Robust Mission for NASA

July 15, 2010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today unanimously approved legislation cosponsored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Committee, to safeguard America’s human spaceflight capabilities while balancing commercial space investment with a robust mission for NASA. The bill was sponsored by Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and cosponsored by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), David Vitter (R-La.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.).

“I am extremely pleased that we have been able to work out a bipartisan compromise on the NASA Authorization legislation.  It has been a long and very hard road to get here,” said Senator Hutchison.  “We began more than four months ago with a new proposal for NASA introduced by the President which I believe would have ended the era of U.S. dominance in space exploration, threatened the use of the Space Station, and jeopardized manned space flight. This legislation approved today represents a strong balance between the need for investment in new technology and the continued evolution of the commercial market to take an increasing role in supporting our efforts in low Earth orbit.  This will allow for greater emphasis on funding the next generation of launch technology needed to allow us to resume our role as explorers.”

The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 addresses the following areas:

International Space Station (ISS)

The bill would extend full utilization of the ISS through at least 2020 and ensure safe and effective operation, maintenance and maximum utilization of ISS through a comprehensive report to Congress of essential systems, components, elements, etc., on board or planned for delivery and installation, including replacement parts needed through 2020. 

Space Shuttle Retirement and Transition

The bill would authorize and direct NASA to fly the space shuttle Launch on Need (LON) flight pending results of a required assessment of safe means of return for astronauts if the shuttle is damaged or unable to return.  The bill also would preserve space shuttle capabilities through 2011 to complete the current manifest. It would also prohibit termination of any contracts that would inhibit launching of the space shuttle.

Commercial Crew and Cargo Transportation Capabilities

The bill would direct NASA to continue the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program (COTS) in support of providing cargo services to the ISS and would establish a requirement for the definition of milestones and minimum performance objectives to be achieved before procurement authority is granted for crew development capability.

Expansion of Human Space Flight Beyond the International Space Station and Low-Earth Orbit

The bill would direct NASA to initiate development of a government-owned, NASA-designed and operated “ Space Launch System” (SLS) – a heavy lift launch capability - as soon as practicable and would establish the end of 2016 as the goal for full operational capability while allowing for modification and/or extension of existing contracts.  The bill would require NASA to develop a multi-purpose crew transportation vehicle based on Orion for use with the Space Launch System. 

Rescoping and Revitalizing Institutional Capabilities

The bill would require a study to identify an approach for the most efficient use and maintenance of NASA facilities and infrastructure, paying specific attention to eliminating unneeded duplication or infrastructure.  It would also prohibit NASA from making any movement or termination of contractors or civil servants or any reorganization or Reduction in Force for reasons other than cause, until Congress receives the required reports and legislative authority to make such changes.

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You can view Senator Hutchison's statement here.

Additional information on the bill can be found here.

You can view a press conference on the bill’s approval by the Commerce Committee here.